Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Scientists zoom in on bug behind Strep throat and scarlet fever

Scientists studying a bacterium that causes scarlet fever, severe sore throat and a form of heart disease say they are closer to developing a vaccine that could one day prevent hundred of thousands of infections a year. In a study in the journal Nature Genetics, scientists from Britain and Australia found detailed differences between strains of Group A Streptococcus bacteria - known as Strep A - from 22 countries, but also found several molecular targets common across many strains, offering potential for vaccine development.

Support for abortion rights grows as some U.S. states curb access: Reuters/Ipsos poll

Americans have become more supportive of abortion rights over the past year, even as a wave of Republican-controlled state governments have imposed new restrictions, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday. The poll found that 58% of American adults said abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 50% who said that in a similar poll that ran in July 2018.

U.S. measles outbreak grows with 60 new measles cases across 26 states

The United States recorded 60 new measles cases last week, taking confirmed cases for the year to 940, the worst outbreak since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000, federal health officials said on Monday. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 6.8% increase in the number of measles cases in the week ended May 24 in an outbreak that has now reached 26 states. The agency has been providing weekly updates every Monday.

Cirrhosis, cancer risks higher with fatty liver - especially in diabetics

Fatty liver disease that's not related to alcohol use is linked with an increased risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer, especially in people with diabetes, according to a large study from Europe. "We probably need a more systematic way of detecting the liver disease in patients at risk so we can prevent progression," Dr. William Alazawi from Barts Liver Center and the University of London told Reuters Health by email. "This involves raising awareness of liver disease among patients and their doctors and also making the most of the blood tests and scans that currently exist in people who we know are at risk."

British Columbia to be first Canadian province to switch patients to biosimilars

The Canadian province of British Columbia said on Monday that its public drug plan will switch as many as 20,400 patients from three branded biologic drugs to cheap near-copies called biosimilars, saving an estimated C$96.6 million ($71.9 million)over three years. The new policy from the province's PharmaCare program targets Janssen's Remicade and Amgen's Enbrel which treat arthritis, among other conditions, and Sanofi's long-acting insulin Lantus. It is the first of its kind in a Canadian public plan and could pave the way for similar programs across the country.

Lopez Obrador says will shop abroad if necessary to fix medicine shortages

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador vowed on Monday to alleviate a medicine shortage in public hospitals, pledging to shop abroad for essential drugs if necessary and blaming the situation on companies upset about his crackdown on overpricing. The government promised on Friday to release about $126 million (2.4 billion pesos) to help alleviate shortages at Mexican public hospitals. The head of the largest public health system resigned last week citing budget cuts, a complaint echoed by several hospital directors.

Energy drink consumption rising in the U.S.

Americans are consuming more energy drinks, with a notable increase among young adults, survey data show. Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages with high levels of caffeine or other stimulants, plus amino acids, herbs and vitamins. They're marketed as fatigue killers and refreshing beverages that can improve physical and mental performance - but this may come at a price, researchers say.

Vietnam swine fever cull surges, 1.7 million pigs dead

Vietnam culled a further 500,000 pigs over the past two weeks to tackle an oubreak of African swine fever, taking the total killed so far to 1.7 million, or 5% of the country's herd, the agriculture ministry said on Monday. Pork accounts for three-quarters of total meat consumption in Vietnam, a country of 95 million people where most of its 30 million farm-raised pigs are consumed domestically.

Teva Pharm to pay Oklahoma $85 million to settle opioid claims

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd said on Sunday it had agreed to pay an $85 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma days before the company was set to face trial over allegations that it and other drugmakers helped fuel the U.S. opioid epidemic. Teva, the world's largest generic drugmaker, said the settlement "does not establish any wrongdoing on the part of the company" and denied contributing to opioid abuse in Oklahoma.